Book Review: The Princess School series

The Princess School is a short-lived book series—much like a favorite TV show that gets cancelled too soon*. Authors Jane B. Mason and Sarah Hines imagine that Ella, Snow, Rapunzel and Rose attend Princess School, a finishing school that teaches mirror skills, charms, how to be charming—everything a princess needs to know.

The Princess School characters are relatable and fun. There is something for everyone; think Princess Spice Girls. Rapunzel is Sporty Spice. Ella is relatable-and-spunky Ginger Spice. Snow White is Baby Spice, the girl the others protect. Rose is Posh Spice—if Posh wanted to be a normal girl rather than marry soccer star David Beckham, move to Los Angeles and start her own clothing line.

The Princess School will interest readers in third grade and up, but high-achieving second graders can handle it. The books are more difficult than Magic Tree House and similar in reading level to American Girl books. The Princess School books hover at the 5th grade reading level.

Personally, I don’t think The Princess School books are particularly difficult to read. I think the high AR reading level may have kept students from being allowed to read it for school. I see the same thing happening with Beverly Cleary books—I swear that part of the reason kids don’t read them so much nowadays is the 4-6th grade AR level on most of her books.

Here is the information on The Princess School books. Buy them on Amazon, or, better yet, see if you can convince your school library to buy them for you! Your girls will thank you.

If the Shoe Fits: Reading level 5.2, worth 4 points
Who’s the Fairest: Reading level 5.2, worth 4 points
Let Down Your Hair: Reading level 4.9 , worth 4 points
Beauty Is A Beast: Reading level 5.2, worth 4 points
Princess Charming: Reading level 5.0, worth 3 points
Apple-Y Ever After: Reading level 4.8, worth 3 points
Thorn In Her Side: Reading level 5.2, worth 3 points

The The Princess School series is very different from Princess Academy by Shannon Hale. The Princess School is like a fun and fluffy romantic comedy; Princess Academy is like Serious Film “Oscar bait.” Both are good—but they are very, very different.

*Prime example: Joss Whedon’s Firefly. Check it out if you haven’t already! Maybe we can bring The Princess School back in the manner that Firefly fans got the Serenity movie made.

 

Posted in Book Lists,Book Reviews,Fun With Literacy by Corey Green @ May 29, 2012

 

Book Review: Washington City Is Burning

Washington City Is Burning, winner of the 1997 Carl Sandburg Award, is a wonderful story by respected author and multiple award winner Harriette Gillem Robinet. I recommend it for any classroom, but particularly if you study American history.

The focus, of course, is the British invasion of Washington City (now Washington, D.C) in the War of 1812. Tremendous extra value is added by telling the story from the point of view of Virginia, an enslaved girl. Dolley Madison saving the portrait of George Washington figures in the story, but that’s really just the beginning.

The strongest storyline is about slavery in our nation’s capital. To me, it was much more interesting than the actual invasion when the British soldiers burned Washington City (although that is well told, too.)

Did you know there were slave auctions just blocks away from the White House? Wait until you read about the suffering Virginia endured to save her fellow slaves—even before she became a house slave at the White House, the central setting of the book.  (Don’t worry, it’s not too much for your students.) There is an exciting sequence wherein Virginia rescues slaves that are to be sold at auction. Her bravery is stunning and humbling. Could you or I have done what she did?

I hope you read and enjoy Washington City Is Burning. I think it is Newbery Medal quality. I wish it had been around when I was a kid, but I will content myself with sharing this book with today’s children.

Posted in Book Reviews,Fun With Literacy,Social Studies by Corey Green @ May 21, 2012

 

Book Review: Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland by Tomie dePaola

Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland
by Tomie dePaola
Available at Amazon.com

With Tomie dePaola’s signature illustration and simple writing style, this book tells the story of Saint Patrick, from his roots as a Roman slave to the height of his powers.  At the end of the book, Tomie shows myths and legends about Saint Patrick.  My favorite is driving the snakes from Ireland—but I also love the picture of him cruising across the water on a rock.

Activities and tie-ins:

Color Celtic Designs: Your children will enjoy the Celtic design elements in the illustrations.  Click here to print Celtic designs and alphabets for your students to color and  here to print Celtic knot patterns.

Learn about Celtic Designs: Your class will get so much more out of coloring Celtic designs if you take a few minutes to teach them about the history.  This website is perfect for a quick study.  I particularly liked learning about Celtic animals.  Kids love animals, so you know it’s a natural fit for the classroom.

Illustrate & Write: Tomie dePaola’s deceptively simple style is enticing for children to imitate—your class would love to illustrate their favorite part, writing a short paragraph underneath the illustration.

Posted in Book Reviews,Fun With Literacy,Holidays by Corey Green @ Mar 17, 2012

 

Introducing my new book, Double Switched!

bookI am pleased to announce the release of the third installment in the Buckley School Books: Double Switched. It’s about Connor, who knows he will be a Major League Baseball star—if he can just get through sixth grade.

Connor’s dad says make straight A’s or no baseball—but that’s not so easy when Connor has been Double Switched. Switched ballparks, switched classes, switched baseball positions—the bases are loaded with problems for Connor. Can he live up to his dad’s high standards? Would his hero Jackie Robinson approve of the choices Connor makes?

Double Switched is loads of fun, with action and comic misadventure. There is also a serious side. When Connor’s dad talks about growing up in the desegregated South, he draws on stories my mom told me about life during the Civil Rights movement. In Double Switched, I honor my mom’s childhood heroes: Cheryl and Eloise, two brave girls who integrated her junior high school in Montgomery, Alabama.

Inspired by his heroes, Connor sets out to address an inequality staring him in the face—his younger sister Nisha’s experience with softball. For Nisha, everything is less-than: poorly maintained fields require endless fundraising to fix up, poorly attended games give her no opportunity to shine. Connor, Nisha and friends put on a Boys Against Girls exhibition game to bring awareness and needed funds to level the playing field.

I hope you enjoy Double Switched. Visit the official Double Switched website for fun activities and features created by the kids in the book. (My favorite is You are the Umpire, but I think you will also like Chris’s Southern Recipes and Baseball Superstitions.)

Posted in Book Reviews,Fun With Literacy by Corey Green @ Dec 6, 2011

 

Virtual Book Tour: Parenting Responsively for Connection, Day 14

E-BookToday I have the great pleasure of being the host on Day 14 of the Virtual Book Tour for the new E-Book Parenting Responsively for Connection, available from HeartwiseParent.com, written by ACPI Parenting Coaches for Parents to deal with the most difficult task of maintaining connection with the growing child whose behavior changes and shifts.  

Yesterday, the book tour visited Sherri Boles-Rogers at parentingheart.com/another-excerpt/. Visit now if you haven’t had the opportunity to meet all the authors.  Tomorrow’s tour will be the final blog (Day 15) with Irish Barbour at www.mylifemag.com.

In the meantime enjoy the following book excerpt as well as this podcast
featuring author Adina Lederer, Certified Coach for Parents & Families.
Excerpt © 2011 by Adina Lederer

Managing Transitions

      With the school year comes a season of new transitions. Getting off to school, getting into school, leaving school, going to activities, leaving activities and coming home from school can make morning, afternoons and evenings a stressful time for both parents and children.

     On any one morning, if the bus or carpool is running late, the domino effect can create a logistical nightmare for a working mom or dad.

     Fortunately, with a little organization, a back-up plan or two and realistic expectations, we can successfully navigate transition times and prevent bumps in the road from becoming major mountains.

     If we want to establish a healthy, productive rhythm and balance in our lives and maintain close connections and deep bonds with our spouse and children, we need effective strategies that provide strength for us all.

     Effective strategies can help us all successfully navigate transition times, manage household chaos and prevent us from becoming disconnected when our world around us seems to be spinning out of control.

     While fairly simple to implement, these 10 strategies can help everyone manage their responsibilities effectively and cut down on the chaos that tends to surround transitions.

  1. Do what you can the night before.  Prepare lunches, snacks, backpacks, children’s clothing and more.
     
  2. Allow children to be involved in the preparation process.  When children are involved they become vested in the outcome.
     
  3. Create menus for lunches and dinners in advance.  Make shopping lists, go to the store and prep as much as you can over the weekend.
     
  4. Develop schedules for the morning, afternoon and evening.  This includes setting aside time for homework, meals and playtime.
     
  5. Set homework schedules.  Create a schedule for children based on their age and capabilities. If a child needs breaks in between their homework schedule, budget time for those as well.
     
  6. Provide healthy snacks throughout the day.
     
  7. Create a work environment that is conducive to completing homework.  A bright, quiet designated area with supplies readily available works well.
     
  8. Make time for dinner.  Children enjoy family mealtime and children who eat meals regularly with their families are less likely to engage in risky behaviors.
     
  9. Establish nighttime rituals.  A nightly routine that includes a bath and time for reading and talking creates connection and a sense of security.
     
  10. Set alarm clocks.  Waking up the same time each day can help promote consistency and routine.  Be sure to give everyone enough time to get ready in the morning. Wake up 30 minutes before your children to you can take care of your own needs before they awake.

      Throughout my many years of parenting, teaching and coaching, I have learned that with a plan, structure, consistent effort and an understanding of our strengths and weaknesses, we can develop tools that strengthen our lives and allow us to live with more peace and balance.

Don’t miss this podcast featuring author Adina Lederer, Certified Coach for Parents & Families.

Be sure to follow the Virtual Book Tour for the E-book Parenting Responsively for Connection tomorrow for the final blog (Day 15) with Irish Barbour at www.mylifemag.com.  For further information on this E-book and the others in the Heartwise Parenting Series, please visit heartwiseparent.com/e-books/.

Posted in Book Reviews by Corey Green @ Jun 20, 2011

 

Virtual Book Tour: Parenting Responsively for Connection

E-BookI am pleased to announce I will be hosting a virtual book tour for the new E-Book, Parenting Responsively for Connection.

The E-book contains down-to-earth and easy-to-apply strategies for staying connected to your children as they grow from their early years into the school years.  You’ll learn how to cope with issues from potty training to developing successful study skills. 

Eleven ACPI Certified Parenting Coaches have joined together to bring you the best of their accumulated knowledge and 110+ years of parenting experiences.  You’ll appreciate each author’s sincerity and realism in each chapter of the book.  This is a must-read!  You’ll find out why when you read the excerpts from each chapter as the virtual tour unfolds.  The first excerpt will appear on Wednesday, June 8, 2011 at Heartwiseparent.com, when the official virtual book tour begins.

Can’t wait?  Order the E-Book now!

List of Authors:

Sherri Boles-Rogers, ACPI CPC
Alan Carson, M.Ed., ACPI CPC
Lesa Day, ACPI CPC
Sharon Egan, MS, ACPI CPC
Marcia Hall, CPN, ACPI CPC
Kareen Hannon, ACPI CPC
Adina Lederer, ACPI CCPF
Malini Mandal, OT, ACPI CCP
Sedef Orsel, ACPI CCP
Minette Riordan, Ph.D., ACPI CCP
Jennie Tehomilic, ACPI CPC

Follow the journey of this Virtual Book Tour:

6-08-11 – Day 1 – www.Heartwiseparent.com/blog
6-09-11 – Day 2 – www.yesicanandiwill.com
6-10-11 – Day 3 – www.northtexaskids.com
6-11-11 – Day 4 – academyforcoachingparents.com
6-12-11 – Day 5 – yourparentingquestions.blogspot.com
6-13-11 – Day 6 – www.nannyalliance.blogspot.com
6-14-11 – Day 7 – parentcoachsedef.blogspot.com, (English)  or (Turkish)  cocukluyuzbiz.blogspot.com
6-15-11 – Day 8 – metaphysicsetcetera.blogspot.com
6-16-11 – Day 9 – www.intentionalconsciousparenting.com
6-17-11 – Day 10 – annebabaokulum.blogspot.com – (Turkish)
6-18-11 – Day 11 – www.lifeinaweek.com
6-19-11 – Day 12 – www.heartwiseparent.com/blog
6-20-11-  Day 13 – www.parentingheart.com
6-21-11 – Day 14 – ClassAntics.com (my blog)
6-22-11 – Day 15 – http://www.mylifemag.com/

Posted in Book Reviews by Corey Green @ Jun 5, 2011

 

New release—Brainstorm: Buckley School Books #2

bookThis spring marks the release of the second installment in the Buckley School Books—Brainstorm.  It follows the misadventures of Brian and features mystery, suspense, misadventure, and the world’s weirdest dog.  I hope you enjoy it!

What good is being so smart…
…when your brainstorms backfire?

They don’t call him Brian the Brain for nothing: Brian is very smart. Sometimes Brian is too smart for his own good and his brainstorms backfire.

Brian has a brainstorm to solve two problems: his horrible nickname (Barfy) and all the homework help questions his classmates send him every night. Brian creates AskBarfy, a homework help website and the only time kids can call him Barfy.

Brainstorm backfire: Classmates get jealous when AskBarfy gets famous.

Brainstorm: Brian distracts the kids with a mystery that emails show criminals are planning to steal art from the Buckley Museum.

Brainstorm backfire: the robbery is real!

Can the kids stop the robbers?

Children’s middle-grade fiction.
Audience: Ages 9-12.

Zapped! – Buckley School Books #1 is also available online.

Posted in Book Reviews by Corey Green @ May 9, 2011

 

Hurray for a new Maeve Binchy book!

bookToday is an exciting day—it’s the US release of Maeve Binchy’s newest book: Minding Frankie!

Maeve Binchy is my favorite writer for grownups.  Her books about everyday Irish life immerse you in a world that feels utterly real.  Maeve’s style is very slice-of-life, but by the end of each book, you will be shocked at how much has happened.

Binchy’s most famous books are Circle of Friends and Tara Road, both of which were made into movies.  (Read the books first.)  Circle of Friends is about college students in 1950s Dublin, focusing on two girls from a small Irish town, each unaware of their own families’ secrets and tragedies.  Tara Road is about two heartbroken women, one Irish and one American, who trade houses for the summer.  In both books, you know the characters’ friends and family for over a decade.  Peeking through those Irish lace curtains reveals some interesting hidden motives that drive irresistable page-turning plots.

What does this have to do with education?  I believe that reading Maeve Binchy’s books can teach you more about human nature than you could ever learn in a lifetime of just living.  Because Maeve Binchy uses third person omniscient point of view, you can delve into the hearts and minds of people you’d like to meet in real life.  Read enough of her books and you’ll start to predict the actions of the people in your life quite accurately.  Very useful for a teacher!  (Or anyone, really.)

Minding Frankie, Maeve Binchy’s newest book, continues a saga of books about two neighborhoods in Dublin: Tara Road and St. Jarlath’s Crescent.  It’s so interesting to see characters who starred in their own books figure as background characters in a new story.  It’s like being part of a village—an almost unimaginable experience for this Air Force brat!

All of Maeve Binchy’s books are wonderful, but my favorites are her modern books with interlacing characters.

Tara Road: two women trade houses for the summer

Evening Class: lives of students and staff intertwine in an evening Italian language class

Scarlet Feather: two likeable young people start a catering company—and discover that the food is the easy part!

Quentins: while facing a huge scandal, Ella Brady creates a documentary about Quentins, a restaurant that embodies the spirit (and social lives) of modern Dublin

Nights of Rain and Stars: (set in Greece—but some characters appear in Heart and Soul)

Heart and Soul: the dramatic lives of patients and staff at a heart clinic

Minding Frankie: a neighborhood cares for a baby

For a complete list of Maeve Binchy’s works, visit her website or her Amazon page.

Posted in Book Reviews by Corey Green @ Mar 1, 2011

 

Teaching Cursive with Muggie Maggie

bookMuggie Maggie by Beverly Cleary
AR Reading level 4.5  1 point
Available at Amazon.com

Cursive may seem outdated compared to typing, texting and tweeting, but it is still an important skill for kids to learn.  If nothing else, they need to be able to read cursive—notes written by parents and teachers, or cursive written by our forefathers in the Declaration of Independence.

Kids are very excited to learn cursive, but sometimes their interest lags after the first few lessons.  You can keep them going by reading to them Muggie Maggie by Beverly Cleary.

In Muggie Maggie, third-grader Maggie absolutely refuses to learn cursive.  She’s a smart girl, but she gets herself into quite a predicament—with a lot of embarrassment, time spent out of class, and even trips to the principal’s office!

See, Maggie’s teacher has hatched a plan with other teachers and school staff.  She makes Maggie the messenger.  All the messages Maggie deliverers are written in cursive.  Maggie is pretty sure she recognizes her name in the messages.  Maggie has no choice but to learn cursive so she can read the secret messages.

Muggie Maggie is clearly intended for a third-grade audience, but AR (accelerated reader) classifies the reading level is 4.5.  (Many Beverly Cleary books have a reading level above the intended audience’s grade level, as I have described in a different post about this topic.)  Some third-graders will be able to read Muggie Maggie, but I recommend that third-grade teachers read it aloud because it is perfectly suited to their audience.


 

The Stories Julian Tells

bookby Ann Cameron
AR book level 3.4  1 point
Available from Amazon.com

I first learned about The Stories Julian Tells because we have an excerpt in our Harcourt reading textbook.  Now, I am a big believer in Julian!  You will be so glad to know that there are many books about Julian.

In The Stories Julian Tells, author Ann Cameron creates a memorable family.  You will love Julian, a nine-year-old with a big imagination and a gift for telling stories.  His little brother Huey is cute as can be.  Julian’s dad is larger-than-life: a strict father who is even funnier and more imaginative than Julian.  Julian’s mom is a wonderful, warm character.

The Stories Julian Tells is an incredibly funny, warm and comforting book.  It makes a wonderful read aloud for the classroom.  However, I think a huge added educational value comes from the author’s rich description and imaginative use of figurative language.

For example, in the first chapter, Julian, Huey and their father make a lemon pudding for Mom: a lemon pudding that tastes like “a night on the sea” and “a whole raft of lemons.”  When dad wakes up from his nap to find that Julian and Huey ate the whole pudding, the boys are in for a whipping and a beating—Julian whips the pudding, and Huey beats the egg whites.  Mom tastes the new pudding—it’s just like a night on the sea and a whole raft of lemons!

My favorite story in the book is called “Because of Figs.”  When Julian was three, his dad gave him a fig tree that would grow up with him.  When the tree grew taller but Julian didn’t, Julian felt left behind.  Naturally, the solution was to eat the fig leaves to help him grow.  (They taste like spinach, so they must be good for you.)  Years later, Julian is bigger but the tree hasn’t grown at all.  Finally, Julian realizes that the leaves belong to the tree.  Now both tree and boy can grow up together.

My students absolutely love The Stories Julian Tells.  They are nuts about the companion books, like Julian, Secret Agent , More Stories Julian Tells, and Julian, Dream Doctor.  There are also great books about other characters in the series, like Gloria (who might be Julian’s best friend) and Huey, Julian’s little brother.

Posted in Accelerated Reader (AR),Book Reviews by Corey Green @ Nov 17, 2010

 

Molly’s Pilgrim

bookby Barbara Cohen
AR book level 3.0   0.5 points
Available at Amazon.com

Molly’s Pilgrim is a classic that deserves a place in your classroom library.  It can be read any time, but it is particularly poignant in November.

In November, we think of pilgrims as the Puritans landing on Plymouth Rock.  However, Molly’s Pilgrim reminds us that other pilgrims came to this country for religious freedom.

Molly is a young Russian-Jewish immigrant who feels out of place in America.  Molly’s school assignment is to make a Pilgrim doll.  Molly’s clothespin Pilgrim doll resembles her mother rather than a Puritan Pilgrim, teaching her classmates an important lesson about religious freedom in America.

Molly’s Pilgrim was made into an Academy award-winning short movieIt is available on Amazon.com.

Molly’s Pilgrim is great as a read aloud, but if you wanted make it into a unit of study, you might consider buying A Guide for Using Molly’s Pilgrim in the Classroom, from Teacher Created Materials.


 

The New Teacher’s Complete Sourcebook

bookby Bonnie P. Murray
Available from Amazon.com

I found this book after my first year of teaching.  Boy, do I wish I had it during my first year!

This book tells you how to set up your classroom, work with parents, set up a discipline plan—basically, how to manage your first year.  The book is easy to read all at once, or as a quick reference to help with specific issues.

The best part is a complete schedule for what to do on the first day of school.  The author gives a separate schedule for each grade K-4.  I adapted it for 5th grade and it worked there, too.  I think any elementary teacher can use this book.

I can’t praise this book highly enough.  Beginning and experienced teachers will love it.

P.S. Next year, you can loan it to a new teacher! 


 

Yardsticks: Children in the Classroom Ages 4-14

Yardsticks: Children in the Classroom Ages 4-14By Chip Wood
Available from Amazon.com

In an easy-to-read format, Yardsticks helps you understand the characteristics and concerns of children at each age from 4-14.

Why are six-year-olds exuberant and seven-year-olds perfectionists?  How should a teacher cope with a third grader’s boundless enthusiasm and limited attention span?  How do parents help thirteen-year-olds build self confidence and personal identity?

Yardsticks is one of the most helpful teaching books I own.  I refer to it often—especially if I am teaching a new grade level.  Children face different concerns at different ages, and Yardsticks helps the adults in their lives guide them.

Yardsticks doesn’t give you a perfect description of every child at every age: it’s a yardstick.  A general measure that is helpful in looking at the personality of your class as a whole.

I recommend Yardsticks for parents, teachers, counselors, social workers, and education majors.

I also recommend Yardsticks to children’s book writers.  Yardsticks will help you identify typical personality traits and characteristics for your characters.  Your story will be more authentic when you anchor school scenes with the truths you learned from Yardsticks.

Posted in Book Reviews,Classroom Management,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Jun 24, 2010

 

Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez

Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar ChavezBy Kathleen Krull
Illustrated by Yuyi Morales (pronounced Ju-ji)
AR Reading Level 3.9; 0.5 points
Available from Amazon.com

Summary: When Cesar Chavez was ten years old, his family had to move from their happy home in Arizona because of drought.  So begins the story of working as a migrant worker in California under increasingly deplorable conditions.  The historic 1965 strike against grape farmers, Cesar Chavez’s efforts to unionize migrant workers, and the dramatic 340 mile march for “La Causa” to California’s capital is the centerpiece of this dramatic and beautifully told story.

Activities: Harvesting Hope  is poetically written, but simple enough for children to understand.  Still, I would read this story aloud.  Students will get much more out of it with an adult to explain the history and classmates to share the experience.  Expect a long classroom discussion.  Students will be indignant to learn that after Cesar broke a school rule against speaking Spanish, the teacher hung a sign on him that read “I AM A CLOWN. I SPEAK SPANISH.” Many stores displayed “White Trade Only” signs.

Like Chavez himself did, children will make the natural connections to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Ghandi.

This book reminds us all to respect the dignity of every man.

Posted in Book Reviews,Social Studies by Corey Green @ May 4, 2010

 

Help! A Story of Friendship

Help! A Story of Friendshipby Holly Keller
AR Reading Level 2.3; 0.5 points
Available at Amazon.com

Summary: A twist on fables, this book is about a mouse who ends up stuck in a hole.  None of the animals can rescue Mouse, so they recommend asking Snake.   Mouse heard through the grapevine that his old friend Snake likes to eat mice, so Mouse won’t agree.   Ultimately, Snake ties a vine to his tail and pulls Mouse out.   Everyone learns a lesson.

Activities: This is good independent or group reading for grades 1-3.  I use it as a springboard for discussing friendship, or as a prediction lesson.  It’s also good for discussing relationships between characters and making connections to your life.  With older students, I use it as an example of a non-Aesop fable.

Posted in Book Reviews by Corey Green @ Apr 15, 2010